International Terminal will be in operation May 16, announced by Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Aviation GM Louis Miller Tuesday. The new terminal will have 64 self-check in kiosks and 80 ticketing counters.
After more than a decade of planning, years of construction and months of legal challenges over concessions contracts, the new international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has a firm opening date, May 16.
The gleaming new terminal will mark an historic milestone for Hartsfield-Jackson, opening a second front door to the airport, along with 12 international gates on a new Concourse F. While travelers taking domestic flights will continue to use the main terminal accessible via I-85, come May 16, international travelers will enter through the international terminal on the east side via I-75. Hartsfield-Jackson, the world's busiest airport, handled about 9.9 million international passengers last year out of a total of 92.4 million travelers. The airport expects to handle about 13 million international travelers come 2015 based on federal forecasts.
Making sure passengers get to the right place will be one of the biggest challenges. New highway signs are already up -- though covered for now -- to direct motorists. Passengers who end up on the wrong side of the airport, or who need to get from the international terminal to the main terminal to take MARTA, will be able to take a free shuttle to get to the correct place.
The international terminal will end the much-maligned baggage recheck process for Atlanta-bound international passengers and ease congestion in the main terminal and roadways.
At a Tuesday morning press conference, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the international terminal will open "on time and on budget" and will create about 1,000 additional jobs. The new terminal has for the last few years been expected to open in 2012 with a roughly $1.4 billion budget, but it was originally slated to open in 2006. In earlier years of planning, the international terminal suffered from delays, ballooning costs and conflicts.
The terminal is incongruously opening at a time when its primary user, Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, is cutting back on international flying. Delta senior vice presidentHolden Shannon said that would depress the airline's usage of the facility in the short term, but called the international terminal "a 30- to 40-year asset."
Airport officials had hoped to announce an opening date last year, but those plans were derailed after contracts for airport restaurants and shops were delayed and then faced protests and appeals.
As previously reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, an attorney for the city last week disclosed the planned May 16 opening date while in court amid a dispute with concessionaires seeking to block the mayor from finalizing concessions deals. The city was allowed to move forward with plans for the international terminal after a Fulton County Superior Court judge on Monday denied a request for an injunction by the concessionaires who failed to win contracts and allege there were problems with contracting procedures.
"It's been a long, tough, laborious process," Reed said. "We're going to take a hard look really at all the procedures related to procurement.... At the end of the day we're going to be much better because of this."
The four concessionaires are continuing their administrative appeals of the contract decisions, with hearings expected between late March and mid-April.
Enjoy expanded coverage of college football for UGa, Tech and the SEC, with our SEC Insider, covering all Southeastern Conference matchups and articles by AJC staff and regional newspapers that cover the SEC.